MONTEREY PARK -- Derwin Henderson looked over his left shoulder, then over his right. The South East coach promptly pulled the hood of his sweatshirt over his head, knowing exactly what was coming next.
Nothing like an icy bath to kick off the celebration.
Henderson and top-seeded South East captured the City Section Division II championship Friday afternoon with a 51-34 victory against second-seeded Marshall at Weingart Stadium on the campus of East Los Angeles College. South East (13-1), in only its seventh year of existence, shattered its previous school record of eight wins.
The disbelief was evident on junior quarterback Jonathan Santos’ face. He passed for 317 yards and five touchdowns, and added a season-high 135 rushing yards and another score to pace the explosive Jaguars attack.
“I wouldn’t trade him for the world,” Henderson said.
Highly regarded Robert Lewis, the Southern Methodist-bound tailback who had 2,004 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns heading into the game, had difficulty finding running lanes but made his presence felt in a different way. He caught a 24-yard touchdown and returned an interception 36 yards for a score in the second half to help Eastern League champion South East pull away.
“Back in February Robert could have left to any other school he wanted, but he stuck around, stuck with me,” Henderson said.
Santos’ 71-yard touchdown pass to Ramone Smith was the dagger, making it 38-20 early in the fourth quarter. In the stands, newspaper scraps fluttered in the air, serving as makeshift confetti.
“This is everything,” said Santos, who fell just 31 yards short of 3,000 for the season. “Since I was little this is what I’ve been dreaming about. We never thought it’d be reality.”
It all came to fruition in a dizzying third quarter, which had three lead changes and long gains to spare. The Jaguars jumped ahead, 19-14, when Santos found Christian Quiñones for an eight-yard touchdown midway through the quarter. Marshall responded with a one-yard score from Walter Moctezuma but the elation was short lived when Santos connected with a wide-open Alex Alvarez for the go-ahead score.
South East actually trailed at halftime, 14-13, after botching the potential game-tying extra point following Christopher Ochoa’s one-yard plunge. But it could have been far worse -- a holding penalty with nine seconds left in the half negated a Marshall touchdown. The Barristers still had an opportunity in the red zone but Anthony Benitez lost track of time on the next play and the clock expired when his pass fell incomplete near the goal post.
“We’re a second-half team,” Lewis said. “We knew we’d come out and play.”
If anything, the Barristers (11-3) were opportunistic. Jonathan Mina intercepted a pass intended for Lewis in the end zone, leading to Moctezuma’s 24-yard touchdown catch at the other end. Minutes later, another South East turnover -- this one on a fumbled option pitch from Santos to Lewis -- set up Mina’s 10-yard score. Mina caught a Benitez swing pass, danced near the sideline and avoided five tackles at around the 15 before gliding into the end zone. Marshall converted its two-point attempt and had the 14-7 advantage.
Benitez had 352 total yards and Moctezuma added 181 for the Northern League champion Barristers.
Santos broke the scoreless tie with a four-yard touchdown pass to Lewis late in the first quarter. Marshall, which hasn’t won a divisional title since 1982, tried anything -- and everything -- to keep the ball away from Lewis, who heading into Friday was averaging more than 10 yards per rush. He carried the ball only four times for 13 yards in the first half, but found a way to make an impact.
“I stuck it out and ended up winning a championship,” Lewis said.
Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPN Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter.